Are the Nativity Stories of Jesus based on those of John the Baptist?

Scholar Hugh J. Schonfield thought so. In his monograph published in 1929, Schonfield suggested that the scattered remains of a lost “Book of the Nativity of John” show that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke borrowed thematic elements from this hypothetical text for their compositions of the birth stories of Jesus.

Schonfield found references to, and scattered remains from, a written nativity of John in a variety of sources. Two possible references to the text may be itemized in early lists of Christian literature. The Stichometry of Nicephorus (9th c.) lists a work called the Book Of Zacharias the Father of John (given as 500 lines in length) while the Questions and Responses of Anastasius of Sinai (7th-8th c.) cites a similar text called the Apocalypse of Zacharias. Are these the same books? Is the Zechariah in the titles of either of these works the father of John the Baptist named Zechariah in Luke 1:5? In the Gospel of Matthew 23:35, Jesus makes a reference to Zechariah the son of Barachiah who was “murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.” Is this John’s father? Jerome (4th c.), in his gospel commentaries, wrote that some exegetes of his day thought so. Other witnesses, including the Gospel of the Hebrews, understood Jesus to be referring to the pre-exilic Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, who was stoned in the temple court (2 Chr. 24:20-21). Some believe that the author of the biblical Book of Zechariah, given in the opening lines as the son of Barachiah, is here in view although there is no tradition that he was ever murdered.

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